Week 17 is (almost) upon us, and personally, I cannot wait. Playoff scenarios are set in both conferences, and even though the amount of teams that are still mathematically alive for the playoffs is very small, this is the last time fans of non-playoff teams can watch their beloved squads compete until the end of summer next year. Oh, and of course, it is a very important week for those who still have fantasy football championships on the line. Nevertheless, let’s break down these games and scenarios, shall we?
The NFC playoff picture is a bit more clear cut than its AFC counterpart. This is what we know so far; The Saints clinched the NFC South (rather handily at that) and will also be the number 1 seed, receiving a bye and home field throughout the duration of the NFC playoffs (as long as they remain in, of course). Next, we know that the Rams, Bears, and Cowboys each clinched their respective divisions and that the Cowboys are locked into the 4 seed, and will play the 5 seed (the first wildcard). As for the Rams and the Bears, in all likelihood, the Rams will be the 2 seed and be on a bye in the Wild Card round, seeing as all they need is to beat the 49ers (who are a good candidate to spoil, but are clearly the lesser team) to obtain such bye privilege. However, the Bears are still alive in the race for that coveted 2 seed; if they can beat the Vikings and somehow get some help from their friends in San Fransisco, the Bears will not play until the Divisional round.
Here is where it gets a bit hairy. The Seahawks have clinched a wild card spot, we just don’t know whether they will be the 5 or the 6 seed. If they beat Arizona, as they should, they will be the 5th seed, and head to Dallas for a date with Dak and company. If they lose and the Vikings beat the Bears, Minnesota gets the 5 and Seattle would be the 6. Following so far? Good, I’m glad. Finally, if the Vikings lose and the Eagles beat the Redskins, Philly will have a chance to defend their crown as the 6 seed. However, if Philly loses, Minnesota will have the final Wild Card regardless of their outcome against Chicago.
The AFC has quite a few scenarios (actually a lot more than “quite a few”), so I will only go through the less complex ones. The Chiefs clinch the AFC West with a win over Oakland, and more importantly, will have the 1 seed and play all AFC games at Arrowhead. If they lose and the Chargers beat the Broncos, the Chargers will win the division and clinch the 1 seed. The Patriots, already having clinched their division, can lock up the 2 seed with a win, and even sneak into the 1 seed with a win and KC loss and a Chargers loss. However, there is a chance that the evil empire (New England, of course) would have to play on Wild Card weekend; If Houston wins, KC or the Chargers win, and New England loses, Houston gets the 2 seed and New England gets the 3 seed. Now onto the AFC North; Baltimore clinches the division and, most likely the 4 seed, with a win against Cleveland. The Ravens could even potentially get the 2 seed, with a win and a lot of help (Houston, New England losses and tiebreaker scenarios based on strength of victory). On the flip side, if the Ravens lose and the Steelers win, Pittsburgh would clinch the North division (and be the 4th seed). Pittsburgh could also clinch the 6 seed with a win and the Indy-Tennessee game ending in a tie. However you look at it, Pittsburgh needs a good amount of help to make it into the tournament even with a win. Symbolically, the final scenario(s) possible all stem from the final game that will be played in the 2018 NFL regular season; the Titans hosting the Colts. Simply put, the winner of this game will get the 6 seed, and the loser misses the playoffs. If this game ends in a tie, there are a number of different scenarios that could potentially play out, but for the sake of your time and mine, I will refrain from going there. A few other things that could come out of this game… If the Titans win and Houston loses, Tennessee would clinch the AFC South and would be the 3 or 4 seed. Coincidentally, the Colts have this same scenario (this speaks to how closely fought this division was week in and week out). Regardless, all 3 teams in the AFC South have had incredible seasons; Houston started out 0-3, and now sits in a position to POTENTIALLY have the 1 or 2 seed (or drop to a wild card); The Colts started 1-5 and miraculously have a win-and-in game; The Titans have not had a healthy Marcus Mariota all year for the most part, and have battled the inconsistency (and injury) bug all year. Hats off to all 3 of these teams, even the one that potentially is left out of the playoffs.
5 Games With the Biggest Implications
I understand that all games are important for one reason or the other, but these are my 5 most important games of this very eventful Week 17:
Colts at Titans (8:20 PM EST Sunday)
Bears at Vikings (4:25 PM EST Sunday)
Jags at Texans (1 PM EST Sunday)
Raiders at Chiefs (4:25 PM EST Sunday)
Browns at Ravens (4:25 PM EST Sunday)
Projected Playoff Field
Now that we have gone through *most* of the scenarios involving the playoffs for Sunday, I will provide my unprofessional opinion about who will end up where after the conclusion of the Sunday Slate.
Yes, I know that my picks reflect the least exciting outcomes of this upcoming Sunday’s games, but we will see how it all comes together. Whether your team is fighting for a playoff spot, or already knows their playoff destiny, Week 17 is always fun. It is (obviously) the last time that we will see all 32 teams play in the same week for a while. Enjoy watching this Sunday my fellow football fiends!